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Book #2: Settlement, Revolution & War. TOC
Part 2, "Revolution And The 14th Colony" TOC
Ch. 5 - New Politics

The America Revolution was the first great historical manifestation of the political thought expressed by writers during the course of the century leading up to 1776. We need but make reference to a few of them. The Parisian, Voltaire, through his writings, became the embodiment of the 18th-century enlightenment. He was against organized religion, fanaticism, intolerance and superstition -- his cry: Ecrasez l'infâme! ("Crush the infamous thing!") He was a constant source of irritation to the political and religious authorities of the time. It was the English philosopher, John Locke, who gave legitimacy to armed revolt. He concluded that if a government subverts the ends for which it was created, being, fundamentally, the protection of property, widely defined, then that government might be deposed; indeed that revolution in some circumstances is not only a right but an obligation. Locke's thoughts, which had been around since 1690, formed the bedrock upon which the American revolutionaries took their stand. If the "ruling body offends against natural law: it must be deposed." In 1762, Jean Jacques Rousseau was to publish his work, Contrat social. The expression, "social contract," was, thereafter and ever since, embraced and tenderly loved by all social scientists especially those employed by the state. The Rousseauan notion, is, that there exists an implied (read pretended) social contract whereby there are created obligations between the people and their government. We also see, in Rousseau's works, such expressions, as: "Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains." And, man must "be forced to be free."1

The 18th Century English colonists came easily to understand and desire a government as was outlined by this new age, The Age of Political Enlightenment. Great numbers of literate people, particularly in New England, seized upon the notion that church and king did not take precedence over their "rights." The man in the street, in increasing numbers, was learning how to read and printing presses were taking the place of scribing monks, pamphleteers with republican ideas were out amongst the public making their living. An increasing number of ordinary people were ready to take charge of their own lives and to take charge of their own destinies; and by force, if necessary. A new authority was trenching upon the old. Though the old political guard was slow to recognize it: public opinion, right or wrong, was what was to rule: the aristocracy could rule but only through the shaping of public opinion. As Pitt observed, "Five hundred gentlemen, my Lords, are not ten millions; and if we must have a contention, let us take care to have the English nation on our side."2

[NEXT: Pt. 2, Ch. 6 - "Acts of Parliament (1764-6)."]

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